Canada had a small naval air service, the CNAS, only in the months of the First World War. Royal CanadianNavy personnel manned two small British aircraft carriers during the second world war, though it was not until after the war that the RCN acquired carriers of its own.
The first was HMCS Warrior(1946-1948), the second HMCS Magnificent(1948-1957), and the third HMCS Bonaventure.
Laid down on 27 November 1943 and launched, only partly completed, on 27 Febuary 1945, Bonaventure was taken over by Canada as a planned replacement for Magnificent in 1952. She was commissioned on 17 January 1957, and was to remain in RCN hands until paid off 13.5 years later.
During her career with the RCN, Bonaventure (or Bonnie as she was usually known), was involved primarily in flying training in support of the Navy's various roles. These included control of the North Atlantic and adjacent areas, tracking Russian submarines operating in considerable strength there, andsupporting North AtlanticTreaty Organization commitments. Her jet fighters, until 1962, were designed to provide protection in the event of enemy attack, while her Trackers and the helecopters assisted attendant destroyers and frigates in their anti-submarine searching and attack roles.
Bonaventure ranged from the arctic (1961) on a 5,200 mile voyage to assert Canadian sovereignty, to Buenos Aires (Febuary 1966).
In 1961 she steamed 42,000 miles and was away from home port for 178 days. The ship lost her aging Banshees in September, 1962. Despite pleas by the Naval Air Group for their replacement with the USN fighter bombers, nothing was decided, for in the sovereignty role fighters were not useful as anti-submarine aircraft. Thus the aircraft fit in 1963-64 became six new Sea King all weather anti-submarine helicopters, one Sikorsky rescue helicopter("Pedro"), and13 twin-engined Trackers. During this time the ship's staff developed the standards for the "hot" refuelling of helicopters without having to shut down and restart them. Her closestapproaches to active war service were in late October 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis when Bonaventure formed part of the fleet-at-sea patrol in the western Atlantic; and later in March of 1964 when called upon to transport Canadian Army peacekeeping elements to Cyprus.
She had a major four month refit in early 1963, to be followed by a long half-life refit at Davie Shipbuilding's yard at Lauzon, Quebec, from April 1966 to September 1967. This refit was designed to carry the ship well into the 1970's. It not only ran vastly over its initial estimate of $8.0 million, to $12.0 million, but took much longer than planned. Adding to the complexity and cost, the ship was kept in commission, with most of her crew retained on board or nearby. She left Lauzon for Halifax on 13 September 1967 for sea trials and re-working-up to efficiency by both the crew and the air detachment. At the end of January 1968 the Royal Canadian Navy as such ceased to exist upon unification of the ared forces. The ship's air squadrons then became the reponsibility of Air Command for development and training and of Maritime Command for their operational use, a clumsy but workable arrangment.
On 3 April 1969 the Government announced a "phased reduction in Canada's NATOcommitments". a harbinger of the end of Naval Air in carriers, for attention was swinging to the somewhat cheaper operation of helicopters from destroyers. Saving money was the key, with major cuts in personnel, and Bonaventure's 1,350-man crew and her aircraft ate u a lot of both. In the summer of 1969 a planned docking at Saint John was cancelled infavour of a "self refit" alongside in Halifax. Then, via CBC radio, word reached the ship while on a NATO exercise in mid-Atlantic in September 1969 that Bonaventure was to be scrapped and her Tracker squadron disbanded. The ship's company was needed to man the new 280 Class helicopter-carrying destroyers just being laid down. So Bonaventure became the Navy's contribution to the defence cuts and the almost 50 percent reduction in Canadian manpower contributed to NATO. The last operational flight was on 28 October 1969. In January 1970, Bonaventure carried a Battlion of the Royal 22e Re'giment to Jamaica for a tropical training exercise. Three months later she was sent to northern Norway, to Narvik, to bring back Canadian troops from a NATO exercise when their planned transport was not available. This was her last service.
She was decommissioned at Halifax on 3 July 1970 and sold for scrap and broken up by the end of 1971.
Total length: 704 ft overall (214.6 m)
Total breadth: 80 ft. (24.5m) at the hull, 128 ft.(39m) at flight deck level,
flight deck : 107.5 ft (32.8m)
Draught in water: 25 ft. (7.6m) Flight deck height: 40 ft. (12.2m)
Displacement: 16,000 tons light, 19,920 tons full load.